Teddy’s Juke Joint – Zachary, Louisiana - Atlas Obscura

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Teddy’s Juke Joint

Zachary, Louisiana

One of the last remaining venues on the Old Chitlin’ Circuit is a kaleidoscopic music hall at the end of a dirt road.  

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Lloyd “Teddy” Johnson, proprietor of Teddy’s Juke Joint, will tell you he’s only ever had one address. It’s here, at the end of a dirt road off of Highway 61—one of the last remaining juke joints on the “Chitlin Circuit,” a word-of-mouth network of venues that welcomed Black musicians across the American South during segregation.

Teddy was born here in what was once a shotgun shack in the thick woods north of Baton Rouge. After touring the country as a record DJ in the 50s and 60s, he returned to Zachary, Louisiana, in the early 1970s to expand his childhood home into a bar. He allowed gospel groups to practice in the building, but when they began to form blues bands of their own and needed a place to perform, Teddy’s Bar & Lounge became Teddy’s Juke Joint. By the late 1970s, blues musicians from around the Delta and as far away as Chicago were lining up to perform at Teddy’s.

Today, the venue hosts a broader range of musicians including rock as well as blues acts, both local and touring. One thing Teddy never stopped doing, however, was collecting decorations. The venue is coated in year-round Christmas lights, disco balls, tinsel, CDs hanging from balloon strings, and music memorabilia illuminated by flashing bulbs; but personal effects like Teddy’s childhood tricycle, toy tow truck, and a photo of the owner as a young child adorn the walls as well. Ceiling fans make the whole place shimmer and dance—one visitor aptly described it as feeling “like [you’re] inside a kaleidoscope.”

For musicians, there’s an open mic on Wednesday nights, and a rotating calendar of bands otherwise, but the nights without live music are a treat as well: that’s when Teddy spins. From behind what appears to be a stand-up piano, Teddy churns stacks of blues, soul, and R&B records while peppering his DJ alter ego—flashy, raunchy, and smooth-talking—across every track. Framed in stuffed animals, from under a gaudy cowboy hat, the born-in-house owner will banter with regulars and bartenders, crack lewd jokes, and muse on daily life. It’s not your home, but it may end up feeling like it.

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